Sunday, May 01, 2011

Bonjour, Madeleines! ...

When I was in elementary school, the mother of one of my classmates came to the school one day a week and a few students, including me, met with her in the "media center" for French lessons.

I'm not sure why the mom did it and I'm not sure why I was one of the attendees (perhaps only a handful of us showed any interest), but it was kind of her to do and I learned a wee bit of French.

So, of course, many years later, in high school and college, I studied ... German.

Yeah, don't ask. Because other than knowing that the German teacher, Frau Hodson, was a nice woman (because one of my brothers had taken her class when he was in high school, too), I had no interest in German. Well, no, that's a lie. To this day, I'm a pretty big fan of Haribo gummi bears.

My point is, instead of studying a romance language (I would have taken Italian if my school had offered it), instead of studying a language that contains words like "croissant" and "amour" and "café" (I chose those randomly, but they relate nicely), I instead chose a language whose principal property is that every utterance sounds like someone clearing their throat.

So, here I am, later in life, and my German has all but evaporated out of my mind. (Curiously, whenever I try to recall any of my German, the first word that always pops up is the word for "peas.")

If I were to find myself in France and someone was taking attendance, I could respond in two ways, thankyouverymuch, and I could tell them my name and I could ask them if they speak English, while really hoping that they speak English. But if I were to walk into a patisserie or boulangerie, I would be just fine. Forget love; the international language comprises all the words for all the baked goods in France.

The other day, I got to thinking about madeleines, specifically that I hadn't made madeleines in a very long time, and I don't know why, because they are ridiculously simple and contain nothing but staples, unless you don't usually have a lemon on hand. In which case, start keeping a lemon on hand.

And invest in a madeleine pan – metal, please, not that silicone business – and whip these up some afternoon when you're in the mood for something a little sweet to go with a warm beverage. Cafe au lait, perhaps. Or, if you must, tea.

I made a recipe from Bon Appétit via Epicurious, but most basic madeleine recipes are basically the same.

(Published by Bon Appétit, January 2000)

2 large eggs
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon peel
Pinch of salt
1 cup all purpose flour
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, melted, cooled slightly

Powdered sugar

Beth Note: I used a little more than a teaspoon of lemon zest, because that's how much I ended up zesting and because I like lemon. I'd recommend using at least that much. A half-teaspoon wouldn't offer enough lemony oomph, in my opinion.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Generously butter and flour pan for large madeleines (about 3 x 1 1/4 inches). Using electric mixer, beat eggs and 2/3 cup sugar in large bowl just to blend. Beat in vanilla, lemon peel and salt. Add flour; beat just until blended. Gradually add cooled melted butter in steady stream, beating just until blended. Spoon 1 tablespoon batter into each indentation in pan. Bake until puffed and brown, about 16 minutes. Cool 5 minutes. Gently remove from pan. Repeat process, buttering and flouring pan before each batch. (Can be made 1 day ahead.)

Dust cookies with powdered sugar.

Further Beth Note: This recipe makes about 20 madeleines. Do your best not to consume them all in one sitting. It's difficult. They're tres, tres bon.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

My little Kathryn's favorite books are the Madeleines books detailing her adventures around Paris with her orphanage sisters. I'll have to make these for her one day and tell her they are madeleines. :) Although at 3, I think it would be lost on her and just tickle me!


2:58 PM  
Blogger Beth said...

Oh, the Madeline books She's so cute. I love her hat!

You can start baking these now and tell K that they're seashell cookies. When she's older, you can explain further. I simply see no reason to not make them sooner rather than later! They're so, so simple. Tasty. Subtle. Maybe just skip the powdered sugar for her. Powdered sugar and kids never seem like a good idea. Not only because it's messy but because of inhaling it and coughing.

3:08 PM  

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